Western Gailes - Ayrshire & Arran - Scotland

Western Gailes Golf Club,
Gailes,
Irvine,
Ayrshire,
KA11 5AE,
Scotland


  • +44 (0) 1294 311649

  • Golf Club Website

  • 3 miles N of Troon, off A78

  • Welcome Mon, Wed & Fri – contact in advance


Western Gailes Golf Club is wedged between Irvine Bay and the railway tracks on one of Ayrshire’s narrowest strips of links land. Western and its next-door neighbour, Glasgow Gailes, are the northernmost of the exceptional links courses located on this prodigious stretch of Ayrshire coastline.

Four Glaswegians who were fed up with playing on muddy parkland founded the club in 1897. They recruited the first keeper of the greens, Mr. F. Morris, to lay out the course on land leased from the Duke of Portland. Western Gailes is listed in the catalogue of Simpson & Company Golf Architects, but we don't know what work Tom Simpson may have carried out prior to Fred W. Hawtree developing four new holes in the mid 1970s to accomodate a new road.

Western is an unusual layout in that the clubhouse is more or less centrally located. The first four holes head north, parallel to the railway tracks. The next nine holes head straight back along the coastline in a southerly direction, passing the clubhouse along the way, and then the closing five holes head northwards, back towards the clubhouse and once more along the railway line.

Whilst the layout, as we have already mentioned, is unusual but ostensibly nine out and nine back, the holes are wonderfully varied. The fairways undulate gently, interrupted occasionally by three meandering burns that dissect this thin strip of land. The greens sites are cleverly located in naturally folded ground; some are protected by burns whilst others, like the 6th, are in hollows guarded by sand dunes. All the greens are fast, firm and subtly contoured. The 14th hole, a wonderful par five which often plays downwind, provides a huge temptation for big hitters, but numerous bunkers lie in wait.

Be prepared for a westerly wind that can be undeniably ferocious and cunning as it switches direction from south-westerly to north-westerly. On occasions it can be soul-destroying. Western Gailes is a suitably fitting name for this golf course.

Western is a very stiff golfing test – expect to use every club in the bag. The layout measures 6,714 yards from the back tees and Western has hosted a number of important events, including the 1972 Curtis Cup, narrowly won by the USA and the 1964 PGA Championship, won by AG Grubb. Additionally, the course is used for final qualifying when the Open is played at Troon or Turnberry.

Architect Tom Mackenzie sent us this exclusive quote in August 2020 regarding the work his firm was undertaking at Western Gailes:

“Mackenzie & Ebert’s work focuses on the bunkering with drive bunkers re-sited and re-styled to make them less severe but more visually stimulating. Tee positions are being adjusted with forward tees being added on some holes to make the carries more consistent in different wind conditions.

Some green surround reshaping is being undertaken on holes such as the 5th, 9th and 18th. The first phase was completed in early 2020 with a second phase completing the bunker work in the autumn of 2020. Further phases may well follow. This makes the course more forgiving for the shortest players and more challenging for the better players.”

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Reviews for Western Gailes

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Description: The holes at Western Gailes Golf Club are wonderfully varied. The fairways undulate gently, interrupted occasionally by three meandering burns... Rating: 8.6 out of 10 Reviews: 56
TaylorMade
Javier Pintos

Immediately after the Round at Dundonald it was straight to WG to have lunch and remember that very nice Club House which I was lucky to enjoy back in 2016 but again without play as I had a tee time at Prestwick GC (can´t complain!), but this time after enjoying the lunch with the views of the Course, Ocean and Ailsa Craig it was time to play it unfortunately again on my own but sun and wind were very good company this time.

The Starters Hut is one of the Highlights of the Club with Bag Tags from EVERYWHERE and when I say that I include Cypress Point, ANGC, Pine Valley, Shinnecock, NGLA … all of the Top Courses! And there is a story of Rory McIlroy back in 2006 when into a strong wind he drove the green with the 3 metal and made the eagle putt, which he anticipated to the longtime Club Starter.

It was now my time to enjoy the course and as it is one of the greats but that nobody will see on TV it will be good to share some insights. First thing is that it is a very tough course off the tee, tight and narrow and with gorse and dunes that will challenge the life of your golf ball, it was a miracle to make mine survive all 18 holes. The other amazing thing I loved is the mixed bunkering style between the classic circular riveted and the ones with fescue wild edges like Nairn for example. And the greens were rolling again (I can’t get tired of saying it) amazingly well, fast and true. A Complete Challenge from 1st tee shot to 18th putt, I absolutely loved it.

There are some shots you need to be aware of and let caddie or course planner help you:

- Second on par 5 6th is over a dune and if you go for it angle has to be aggressive, better go to the right and have an easier chip to the green.

- 11th is the toughest hole on the course and quite long, there is more room on the right than it shows off the tee.

- 13th slopes to the left where the bunkers are … give yourself space on the right and don’t make a bogey on a such a short hole!

- 18th can be nasty on the right bunkers (maybe fried egg like somebody I know!), go left there is enough room unless wind doesn’t allow you.

I have to say the first four par 4s and the perfect blend a good design has to have: short drivable 1st, tough 2nd with a very demanding second, mid range 3rd but where tee shot has to be conservative and precise plus another not long 4th with danger on both sides. And 5th is a beast, Driver and 5 iron downwind plus a very challenging green … there are no weak holes in Western Gailes.

And when a great golf course has an even greater Club House, welcoming staff and Members that make you feel at home then this is a tough one to beat. It goes directly to be one of my favorite in Scotland.

July 03, 2022
9 / 10
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Conor Gallagher

It’s a bit tricky to know where best to put Western Gailes in this website’s ratings: from a design and playability point of view it’s probably just grazing the lower end of the 5s whereas the conditioning is at the upper end of the 5s. Even after a very wet spell of recent weather my group were enormously impressed at the excellent condition of the tees, fairways and greens. Consistent from start to finish and the varied directions of the holes certainly made it a layout that needed careful judgement over club selection and type of shot required. We were very impressed.

February 25, 2022
7 / 10
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George

Played western gailes 14/2/22 so right in the middle of winter and the course was in very nice condition the greens were superb and heavily guarded by bunkers lol. As for the course it was a joy to play, not one bad hole on the course and had a very enjoyable round of golf. Will definitely be back in the summer and possibly looking at joining the club I enjoyed it that much.

February 14, 2022
7 / 10
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Phil Ree

Western Gailes is at the championship end of the scale rather than quirky, and although fairly short from the yellows it’s one of the tougher courses you’ll find.

It’s solid and consistent rather than a course that’ll keep forcing your camera out, the exceptions being the aforementioned 6th and 7th where you play on to and into the biggest dunes. Besides these, personally the holes merged into each other a bit for me.

So I wouldn’t say the course is of ‘Open’ standard but it’s not far behind, and the conditioning matches the green fee. I had a very friendly welcome too, but Western Gailes didn’t quite hit the spot for me when compared to its ranking.

September 28, 2021
7 / 10
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Mike Brooks

This is a classic links course that doesn’t have the reputation of some of its near neighbours but is just as good a test. There is a good variety of holes despite the relatively high number of par 4s (13). The course set-up generally allows you to hit driver off most tees without being overly restrictive but being particularly wayward can still be punished. Standout holes were the par 5 6th, which requires careful navigation to a tricky green, and the par 3 13th, heavily bunkered with a burn across the front. It’s a course that I immediately felt I wanted to play again given the challenges laid out by a number of the holes. Well worth it’s place in the GB&I top 50.

January 10, 2021
7 / 10
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T P Dean

Western Gailes is the genuine article. A strong, hardy links that combines links and heathland where a railway dashes alongside many of the holes whilst the beach and sea provide the backdrop to the other fence line. There’s a ruggedness that I love about Western Gailes that can’t be recreated on new courses as you’re routed across low and bumpy duneland. I could see many a wily Scotsman plying their trade here with low, fizzing tee shots and bump and runs to keep their ball below the wind.

I really like how the course is skilfully routed across this slim piece of land. Rather than being out and back, 1 to 4 provide the appetiser along the train tracks, then comes the main course from 5 through 13 that bring in the lovely sea views including the best of the dunes, whilst dessert is served from 14 to 18 as they bring you back again along the railway.

The course starts off strong with a beautifully bumpy fairway at the opening hole and a sunken green on the 2nd but most people who’ve researched Western Gailes in advance will know that it’s at 6 and 7 where the most exceptional holes appear. These holes would grace any links course on the planet, 6 being a short par five where the second shot plays blind over high dunes to a wiggly fairway and a hidden green, whereas 7 plays into an amphitheatre-like dune with beautiful revetted bunkering carved into the green sides. I’d probably argue that Western Gailes is maybe two outstanding holes shy of being a genuine world top 100 contender, although I could also throw the 9th and 17th into the conversation of world class holes at Western Gailes. The 9th fairway is insane, a humpty-dumpty of a crumpled fairway where no flat lies will be found. And at 17, the fairway snaps at mid-point as you play semi-blind over a heathery ridge before hitting towards a raised sighting-cross over another lumpy fairway where sneaky pot bunkers lie beside the green.

In fairness, all of the holes could be described as being very good and I’d only have the minor quibble that the hidden burns buried in front of some of the greens felt a little repetitive in places. Also, whilst only my personal opinion, and I understand the reason for the fairway bunker changes where pot bunkers have been removed and blowout bunkers introduced, but pot bunkers are more to my tastes on a links course and I feel that the new bunkering takes away from some of Western Gailes’ unique character. I don’t want to finish on a downbeat note though as Western Gailes is pretty special and a course that I felt was better than nearby Prestwick and competes with its open rota neighbour at Royal Troon. A trip to the Ayrshire coast is not complete without a round at Western Gailes and you’ll be hard pushed to find a more consistently strong links across Scotland. This course with its thick rough will no doubt provide a test of your golf, but it’s a pleasure rather than a chore to be tested by Western Gailes.

October 07, 2020
8 / 10
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Alex Hofmann

Western Gailes has been on my bucket list of courses for a very long time, ever since I first read Bernard Darwin. I finally played there on 2nd October on a perfect autumn day, with frost on the greens followed by a hot, hot sun. For a,lover of links golf, there can be few places as heavenly as Western Gailes on a warm autumn day, and two of our group decided that the welcome at the clubhouse was so warm that they would spend the afternoon on the terrace. The course was a surprise - I did not believe the hype that it could host an Open if it had better practice facilities and a better access road, but it's absolutely true. This course stands comparison with the famous Royal courses which I've played: St George's, Portrush, County Down, Dornoch and Cinque Ports. We played yellow tees in the morning and whites in the afternoon and they are very different experiences. I would recommend higher handicaps play off the yellows, otherwise you will be hitting 3 irons, not 7 irons into the greens. The greens are fantastic and each hole is memorable. What a wonderful place and thank you for all your hospitality during these difficult Covid times.

October 06, 2020
10 / 10
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jason

I would say this is more a course for the golfing traditionalist than for me. Dont get me wrong this is a brilliant layout and in great condition but a pet peeve of mine is not being able to see your ball land on a straight drive or when you hit a green. I wouldn't say there are blind shots in the traditional sense because you can see parts of the fairways you are hitting to most of the time, it just leaves you guessing until you walk up to the ball on too many occasions for my liking and being blunt the results can be in the lap of the gods a little.

Other than my personal dislike of semi blind shots it is a great test and a fantastic clubhouse and the course was in amazing condition. I feel most people will like it more than I did so all in I would say its very worth a visit and maybe if I played it again I would give it a 5, not sure.

September 21, 2020
7 / 10
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Robert Blair

Having played a fair few of the top links courses in Scotland, I can't think of many that are as much fun as playing at Western Gailes. It is a beautifully set out course, with sloping green complexes and well placed deep bunkers. As others have said, it is not a long course, but with bunkers and long rough to contend with, accuracy is called for over power. I think this is part of the course's charm. Challenging your approach play in the wind, or recovery skills if you fall into one of the courses well laid out traps. There are some great views from the tee boxes in the dunes. Angled looks at slithers of fairways that can make you very uncomfortable at what should be simple drives. The greens are worth a mention too, as they played beautifully. A lovely pace and as smooth as you could hope for. Should perhaps be higher in the Scottish list in my opinion.

September 08, 2020
9 / 10
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GLOAGUEN

What a golf course! The track is splendid. A briliant variety of holes with a stunning coastal location. The fact that i played it with a reasonnable wind on a beautiful sunny day made it easy for sure.

To me Western Gailes is the n°3 course you must play in the area after Turnberry & Troon. Definitely a must play.

October 24, 2019
9 / 10
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T P Dean
October 24, 2019

Interesting that you've put Western Gailes as the no.3 must-play course in the area. I've heard from a few people that it's a more enjoyable course than Troon. Apart from Troon being an Open venue, is there anything else that gives it the edge over WG? I've not played either so I'm keen to hear opinions on the subject.

GLOAGUEN
October 25, 2019

I rank it as the n°3 course because i have been more impressed with the general quality of the old course at Troon.

According to me the course set up was better at Troon.

I also have to say that :

1 - I have always thought i would enjoy Western Gailes but i was not sure about Troon so the surprise is bigger.

2 - The staff has been lot more welcoming in Troon

3 - Both rounds were free. I must say that Western Gailes is probably a better value.

I hope this answers your questions :)